How to Pick Lettuce So it Keeps Growing?
No home gardener ever needs to run out of lettuce. It is a resilient plant that will bounce back if you know how to harvest it or what to do with the scraps. Extend your harvest for months with some simple techniques. Even heading varieties like Romaine will regrow with a little care.
Cut and Come Again
Leaf lettuces, mustards, collards and other leafy greens will regrow within weeks after harvest. This characteristic is what gives them the name ‘cut and come again’ greens. They can be cut at just an inch tall, and are often used as baby greens or micro-greens.
Just cut them at the soil horizon leaving what is below the soil well intact. Within weeks, they will sprout again and the process repeats itself. This cycle will occur until temperatures get too warm and the greens begin to flower.
All lettuces produce leaves out of a central crown in the middle of the plant. By leaving the crown intact, you are keeping the plant alive and growing. Harvest the lower or outer-most leaves around the crown. In this fashion, you get full sized lettuce leaves for meals, and the plant will continue to produce more from the crown.
Over time as you harvest, your lettuce plants will have a thick stem where you’ve taken leaves off. The crown portion will get taller with each round of harvest. You can continue to harvest lettuce plants this way until it flowers. The best varieties for this technique include Bibbs and Butter lettuce.
It’s possible to apply the previous two techniques to heading lettuces. However, cutting as a ‘cut and come again,’ you won’t end up with that gorgeous one-piece head of lettuce. Leaving the stem in the ground means that your leaves will fall apart when harvested.
There is a way to enjoy a beautiful head of lettuce and still regrow it. Here is a step-by-step guide to re-growing romaine from your kitchen scraps.
- Save the stem
- Place in shallow water
- Keep water fresh
- Plant new lettuce
Whether from the garden or the store, don’t compost that white stem at the base of your Romaine. Usually left over as a scrap with some tiny leaves poking out the center, this will sprout new lettuce leaves. Place the stem in a shallow container of water and keep it in a sunny location like a south facing windowsill.
Change out the water every couple of days or as it gets stale. In 10-12 days, roots will begin to form at the base of the stem and new leaves will sprout out of the crown.
You can harvest the leaves from the windowsill, or stick the plant in the ground. Chances are that it will quickly flower. Most likely you won’t get another full head from your regrown plant but it should produce enough for a salad or two.